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Research: Massage Induces Greater Range of Motion

Submitted by on July 25, 2010 – 7:26 amNo Comment

A recently published study performed brief (10 or 30 second) massage to the musculotendinous junction of the hamstrings in the research subjects and found a significant increase in hip flexion range of motion for both massage groups (5.9% for 10-second massage, 7.2% for 30-second massage).

Huang, SY, Di Santo, M, Wadden, KP, Cappa, DF, Alkanani, T, and Behm, DG, Short duration massage at the hamstrings musculotendinous junction induces greater range of motion. J Strength Cond Res 24(7): 1917-1924, 2010.

The massage technique performed was slow, circular friction at a pace of 1 repetition per second.  The subjects were supine, with their knee straight, and massage was performed to the distal hamstrings with the fingertips wrapped around the thigh.

Before and after the massage, they measured the EMG activity of the hamstrings as well as the passive muscle tension.  Tension was measured as the torque force produced at the posterior knee at the point of discomfort during stretching.

There were a few interesting results from this study.  First, the massage was performed only to the musculotendinous junction, targeting the golgi tendon organs, and not the muscle belly and attachments.

Next, the increased range of motion did not create an increase in either muscle tension or EMG muscle activity.  The investigators suggest the massage increased the range of motion through a modified stretch perception or increased compliance of the hamstrings.

The suggested practical application of this research is to use slow, circular friction massage to the musculotendinous junction of a muscle either before stretching or after activity to improve range of motion.  This work can be applied to a sports massage therapist’s toolbox, or to teach an athlete for self-care of a chronically tight muscle.

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